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Pai Talks Diversity on “Southern Swing”

He advocates an incubator program to ease minority entrance into broadcast business

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is making a swing through several southern states this week, touching on a number of issues affecting stations including diversity, media ownership and the thorny question of translators.

After visiting stations like WFQY(AM) in Jackson, Miss., to hear about the station’s operational challenges, and Urban Radio Broadcasting in Starkville, Miss., hearing concerns over ownership regulations, the commissioner said in a release that he would continue efforts to foster diversity in the broadcast industry, including establishing an incubator program for minority entrepreneurs.

“From these meetings, I heard about the opportunities and challenges facing minority broadcasters and gained additional insight into what the FCC can do to help them succeed,” he was quoted saying.

Pai, a Republican member of the five-seat FCC, made mention of some regulatory hot-button issues, including FM translators. “I came away from my visits in Mississippi with a renewed appreciation for the challenges minority broadcasters face and a renewed determination to fight for policies that help them thrive,” he said in a release. “That includes the FCC enabling AM broadcasters to acquire FM translators.” Pai has been a vocal supporter of that idea.

He touched on ways to promote minority proprietorship by “allowing pro-competitive arrangements like [joint sales agreements] that can promote minority ownership.”

“And it means establishing an incubator program to make it easier for minority entrepreneurs to enter the broadcast business,” he said.

Following stops in Georgia and Alabama, Pai called for a general improvement in FCC regulatory policy to better encourage broadband deployment in rural areas, an issue on which he has been vocal. “I saw on this trip even more evidence of how old rules are deterring new investments, and how regulatory uncertainty is deterring private enterprise from taking on new risks,” he said.